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When the first nurse practitioner residency programs began, the term “residency” left many in the nursing community unsettled.
“One of the concerns of residency programs and that terminology is the suggestion that nurse practitioners are not prepared upon graduation, which is not accurate at all,” Kitty Werner, MPA, executive director for the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), told MedPage Today.
In considering the language debate, Werner said, “[I]f people look at them [residencies or fellowships] closely they see how they are specific to their practice site, it’s much more like an intensive on-boarding experience for new graduates. Or it might be for existing nurse practitioners who transition to that particular practice environment, but they don’t replace formal educational preparation.”
The NONPF, as part of a broader statement on post-graduate education, declared that the term “residency” is “not an optimal description for NP post-graduate support” because it may be confused with medical residencies which are required for physicians to gain licensure. Four other major nursing groups signed the statement, which was later endorsed by the largest, the American Nurses Association.
“The residency in medicine fulfills the required clinical focus of a particular specialty. In NP preparation that clinical focus is embedded in the NP educational program centering on the population focus that is the center of NP practice emphasis (e.g., family, pediatrics, women’s health, etc.),” the statement read.
Even more confusing, some nursing programs use “residency” specifically for the clinical hours already included in their programs. The statement urged post-graduate support programs to keep things simple and call themselves “fellowships” instead.
Britney Broyhill, DNP, ACNP-BC, the director of the nurse practitioner program at Carolinas Healthcare in Charlotte, N.C., said she prefers the term “fellowship” since the programs are voluntary and offer advanced practice clinicians a chance “to go above and beyond their formal education and training in a subspecialty.”
But there are dissenters, among them Margaret Flinter, PhD, APRN, senior vice president and clinical director of the Community Health Center in Middletown, Conn., who founded the first nurse practitioner residency program and still prefers that name.
“My feeling is still — though I’m always open to the conversation — that this kind of broad-based, very intensive clinical training across the full gamut of primary care is best described as residency.”
She noted that the Department of Veterans Affairs also uses the term “residency.”
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